scallops

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Summer definitely paid us a visit this past weekend, and I was lucky enough to be home in NJ with my family to enjoy it. Celebrating three moms (my own, my sister, and my sister’s mother-in-law) along with my brother-in-law’s birthday called for a great dinner, margaritas, and cake. Perfect sunny weather was an added bonus that allowed us to enjoy dinner outside.

agave

Over Cinco de Mayo weekend, we made a quick stop at Bin Ends in Braintree and ended up buying their margarita “kit” a bottle of Reposado Tequila, 12 limes, and a bottle of agave. The recipe was included on the bag, and we discovered a new favorite, easy, at home cocktail.

My sister loves margaritas, and the weather was perfect, so I mixed up a batch of these.

2 ounces Tequila

1 ounce lime juice

1/2 ounce agave

1/2 ounce water

ice

Mix up and enjoy! My sister thought the drink was a little too strong, so she added some orange juice to hers.

limes

Dinner was better than any restaurant. I picked up some fresh tomatoes and ended up eating them raw, topped with the sour cream/horseradish cream sauce we made for the filets. Yum.

My nephew, who is just learning to talk, kept grabbing tomatoes and saying “ball”. He’s too cute.

tomatoes

My brother-in-law also grilled up a ton of vegetables including red onions, yellow peppers, zucchini, and eggplant.

grilled vegetables

grilled eggplant

We also had filets and grilled scallops, corn on the cob, and baked potatoes.

summer grilling

It was an outdoor feast!

eating outside

I love nice weather eating because it is so simple. Other than a little steak seasoning and the horseradish cream, all of the food was pretty much plain, allowing the freshness to shine through. As much as I love recipes, I find it kind of refreshing to enjoy bright colors and flavors of nature and high quality ingredients.

How have you celebrated the nicer weather (fleeting as it may be!)?

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Tags: agave, family, grilling, margaritas, scallops, tequila, vegetables

This is not your parents’ hotel restaurant. When I was younger and we traveled, we always avoided the hotel restaurant. It was pretty much a given that you didn’t eat in the hotel . Times have definitely changed, with hotel restaurants doing all sorts of creative, community-focused, delicious things for not just their guests, but for locals.

Last Thursday I had the great opportunity to join a few other bloggers and some of the team at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge for a tasting of the new ArtBar menu. I had been to ArtBar before for drinks with colleagues, a cocktail class, and late night bites, but since I had never eaten dinner there before, I was excited for the full experience.

We definitely received VIP treatment, starting with a private room just for our dinner with Director of Food and Beverage Troy Clarke already mixing up specialty cocktails when I arrived.

ArtBar

cocktails

Although it was a rainy day, the views across the river from ArtBar were lovely, one of my favorites of Boston. Of course, you can’t quite tell that from this photo. I just thought it was an artsy shot, and well, I was at ArtBar. . .

Royal Sonesta

Pimm’s Cups, either made with homemade bitter lemon or ginger beer, were our welcome drinks. Always a lover of ginger beer, I went with that option, and thoroughly enjoyed the spicy and refreshing drink as I  mingled with other dinner guests.

Pimm's Cup

Once we sat down, Troy shared information about ArtBar’s food and beverage with us. The restaurant sources as much as possible from local and sustainable sources including about 25 farms and other suppliers. They are continually striving to be more green and are working on 100% sustainability for their seafood. None of this is easy, especially for a restaurant in a hotel that serves several meals a day and has to appeal to a large and diverse audience, but you could see the obvious passion and excitement behind these initiatives as well as behind the creative and inventive cocktail and food menu.

We kicked dinner off with a spring pea soup with Marcona almonds which gave it both a smooth and crunchy texture and a nice richness to go with the sweet green peas.

pea soup

Next up, we tried some of the new appetizers on ArtBar’s menu. We were first brought out full servings of each, plated how they would be for diners in those portions, and then we each received our own tasting plate which was really fun. The dining portions were quite substantial!

bruschetta

From left to right we have the pork cheek tacos, grilled calamari bruschetta, and the holy amazing deep fried macaroni and cheese with truffle fondue. Of the three, the mac and cheese definitely wowed me the most. It was fried and crunchy but not greasy in the slightest. Dare I say it was kind of light? It would be the perfect dish for sharing. Dipped in warm, gooey truffle fondue, this was a comfort food I would crave again and again. I enjoyed the other appetizers as well. The bruschetta was an interesting combination plated on top of a Marcona almond puree that I could have licked off my plate. I don’t usually go for bruschetta, not being a huge bread person, but the calamari added another element that changed up the classic dish. The pork cheek tacos were tender and flavorful; I could see these being a nice small entrée.

sampler plate

Our next cocktail was a vodka punch, a French Standard, created by ArtBar’s bartender. ArtBar is delving into old fashioned punch service in a beautiful and fun way using these glass absinthe containers with spouts on either side. The French Standard is a dangerously delicious ix of Ciroc Vodka, Lillet, St. Germain, Lemon, and Grapefruit Bitters. The light citrus flavors went so well with our appetizers, and having the containers served to us definitely made for fun sharing of drinks.

punch

Our next course featured two entrees from the spring menu, game hen stuffed with spring vegetables with a potato cake and pan butter and artic char with beluga lentils and sautéed leeks. 

chicken

The chicken was good, moist and served with a delicious potato cake. It was a choice that would appeal to many people, including those with less adventurous palates but still done in a way that stands out a bit.

The char was amazing. It was quickly cooked at high heat to crisp the skin to perfection. Soft lentils  provided a nice contrast, and the leeks melted in my mouth.

fish

Dinner was served with a Smoked Cherry Fizz: Lepanto Brandy, Amere Nouvelle, Smoked Cherry Phosphate. Troy burnt cherry bark in front of us with a little torch, showing again his creativity and use of all sorts of different ingredients in the restaurant’s cocktails. If you ever get the chance to take one of his classes, definitely do; he is fun to watch!

smoked cherry fizz

ArtBar’s Executive Chef Brian Dandro came in to meet with us, despite it being his day off, and he had Chef de Cuisine, Stephen Hamilton and the team in the kitchen serve us up a little extra, scallops they had gotten from the boat the day before. This was one of the most perfect scallops I have ever had. It was seared and caramelized on top and so buttery and tender all the way through, with that sweet fresh scallop flavor. Amazing.

scallop

The night ended with a dessert course accompanied by an alcohol-free cocktail, Pressure. ArtBar has a whole menu of non-alcoholic drinks for people who can’t or don’t want to drink alcohol but would like a little something special. The Pressure contained Ginger, Grapefruit Shrub, Agave, Lime, Honeycomb, and CO2. Honeycomb reminds me of my nana, who often had a jar at home. I loved ending the meal with a refreshing drink and not having to worry about a headache the next day.

non-alcoholic cocktail

Two different desserts provided plenty to satisfy our sweet cravings; almond streusel cake with caramel poached pears and “Turtle” panna cotta. I ate every bite of the almond cake which was light and lovely. I found the panna cotta to be a little too sweet for me, but I think it would be a true chocolate-lover’s dream.

almond cake

panna cotta

ArtBar did a really nice job on their new menu. It really reflects their desire to create an experience that is comforting and sophisticated, and it’s clear that a lot of thought and staff input goes into it. ArtBar’s location makes it perfect for warm weather and evenings with lots of light, and its cocktails, wine, and food make it a great place for all sorts of palates.

As we were guests of ArtBar our dinner was complimentary, but I was truly excited to write about the experience, and I am equally excited to return. Trying ALL of the cocktails on their menu is a challenge I could live up to.

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Tags: blogger events, cambridge, chicken, cocktails, dessert, events, Food, menu, pairings, scallops, tasting events

Are you completely over pumpkin by now? I know I am. It annoyed me when pumpkin beer and pumpkin this and that started popping up on Twitter and blogs in AUGUST when I was still fully immersed in the summer, and by the time late September rolled around, I pretty much didn’t want to see another bit of pumpkin again. But, I happened to have one can left in the house, and since we are traveling soon and didn’t buy any fresh fruits or veg this week, I decided to work with it as a source of vitamins and fiber. As usual, on my trip to NJ, my mom sent me home with a ton of food, including some beautiful sea scallops that I couldn’t wait to cook.  After discovering the deliciousness of butternut squash and white beans a few weeks ago, and being without the risotto I thought we had, I decided to make scallops atop a puree of pumpkin and white beans.

pumpkin

With black truffle oil, of course. I actually went back and forth because I was craving spice and pondered making a sesame oil and sriracha glaze for the scallops, but I really didn’t want to overpower their natural sweetness. 

black truffle oil

Earthy black truffle oil and sage won this time.

sage

I had soaked my white beans for a day, changing the water a few times before cooking them until soft. Before I got started on the scallops, I just combined the hot beans with the pumpkin, right out of the can, along with some truffle oil and sage, in the blender and blended until really smooth. I set the puree aside and cleaned the scallops, drying them thoroughly with a clean towel so I would get a nice caramelized crust.

scallops

Into a searing hot pan they went until browned on both sides. Unfortunately, the caramelized crust started to fall off, but I was able to somewhat salvage it. I think that might be my favorite part of scallops. I topped the warm pumpkin and white bean puree with six scallops for each of us, drizzled with black truffle oil, and we were ready to eat. This quick dinner, made with three things we had on hand (Frozen scallops, thawed completely, can be just as good as fresh, I discovered. I had previously been a frozen scallop snob!) proved that a delicious, restaurant-like meal can be healthy and really fast. The longest part of the process was soaking the beans, and you could easily use canned.

scallops

I received a bunch of great wine samples recently and decided to pair the scallops dish with a Michel Torino rosé  of Malbec. The wine was beautiful with lots of bold fruit and floral flavors , but it was a little overpowering and too up front for the subtly flavored scallops. I would pair it with a dish that had bigger flavors next time, but I would definitely try this wine again. And at $13 a bottle, it’s definitely  a great value. Red, White, Boston is recommending rosé for Thanksgiving, something I can definitely get behind, and I think this would be a great choice.

Michael Torino Rose of Malbec

I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner in Ireland, so I kind of have to wing it on wines and the menu until I get there and go shopping which is part fun, part exhausting just thinking of it! Are you cooking Thanksgiving dinner or any dishes for the meal? Have any favorite Thanksgiving wine pairings? Hard to believe, but it is three weeks away!

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Tags: dinner, pumpkin, recipe, scallops, truffle oil, white beans, wine

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